‘It pains me’: Double gold medal winner Tom Dean’s ex-BBC executive mother reveals her sadness at broadcaster’s scaled-down coverage of the Olympics

  • Jacquie Hughes is a former BBC boss now working for TV watchdog Ofcom 
  • Her son Tom Dean is first British swimmer to collect two golds in past 113 years
  • She said of broadcasting woes: ‘It’s absolutely nothing to do with any history at the BBC, but it pains me as a citizen’
  • Lord Grade and Sir Michael Lyons said the broadcasting rules should be changed
  • Viewers were unaware a deal signed by BBC would mean less coverage of Tokyo 
  • The London and Rio Games saw BBC air 2,500 hours on countless live streams 
  • US broadcaster Discovery paid huge £920million to control European coverage 
  • Find out the latest Tokyo Olympic news including schedule, medal table and results right here

The mother of Team GB’s most successful athlete at Tokyo 2020, Tom Dean, today said it ‘pains’ her that the BBC has missed major medal moments and suffered a barrage of complaints from viewers over their coverage.

Jacquie Hughes, a former BBC boss now working for broadcasting complaints watchdog Ofcom, has spoken out as she experienced the pure joy of seeing her son become the first British male swimmer to win more than one gold at a single Olympics in 113 years.

In London 2012 and Rio 2016, the corporation aired 2,500 hours on countless live streams on its red button. But this time US broadcaster Discovery paid £920million to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to control European coverage and will now only allow the BBC to show two live events at any one time.

The corporation has also been blasted by angry viewers for tweeting spoilers of British Olympians winning their first medals after not showing their events live.

Ms Hughes said: ‘The number of people that have raised this with me and said, “I can’t believe I can’t get all the games on the BBC…I’ve watched the Olympics my whole life”. It’s sad from a viewers point of view, but it’s funny for me having been party to those conversations and those debates my whole life – to be suddenly on the receiving end of it.’

Star swimmer Tom Dean with his mother Jacquie Hughes, a former BBC executive now at Ofcom who has said it ‘pains’ her that the BBC has missed major medal moments

Her son is the top Team GB athlete at the games, which has been hit back in the UK because the BBC has been forced to scale back its coverage because US broadcasters have grabbed control


Lord Grade (left) and Sir Michael Lyons (right) said politicians should look at what can be done to ensure more of the Olympic coverage is as widely available to UK viewers as possible 

She added in an interview with the Telegraph: ‘It’s absolutely nothing to do with any history at the BBC, but it pains me as a citizen.

‘I think it’s a reality of modern global media where it’s all about money. Obviously, the big American networks, including Discovery, have deep pockets. You have a set licence fee and if it’s spending it on the Olympics, people would moan that there was no drama. It’s sad’. 

Two former BBC chairmen have called for broadcasting rules to be changed to make sure free-to-air channels can show much fuller coverage of the Olympics after complaints from viewers.

Lord Grade and Sir Michael Lyons said politicians should look at what can be done to ensure more of the coverage is as widely available to UK viewers as possible.

Their comments come after the BBC was hit by a tide of complaints about the lack of live coverage compared with previous games. 

Viewers had been unaware that a deal signed by the corporation in 2016 means that at the 2020 Games the BBC is not allowed to show the same level of coverage as in the past. 

As part of a deal with the US media giant, the BBC signed away its rights to show all sports in return for access to show future games. In the UK there is fuller coverage of the games on Discovery-owned Eurosport and the company’s recently launched streaming service.

Lord Grade, who was chairman of the BBC between 2004 and 2006, said: ‘I think that Parliament needs to look at this and find some way, not of interfering in the market, but making sure that there is fuller coverage on free-to-air.

‘It’s a huge disappointment to people not to be able to have the usual fuller BBC coverage. The Olympic Games belong to everyone really.’

Sir Michael, who succeeded Lord Grade as chairman, said there should be a change to the ‘listed events’ rules that govern which sports must go on free-to-air TV. While the Olympics are protected under these rules, it does not specify the amount of coverage that has to be shown. Sir Michael said these rules should be changed to make sure the BBC or other free-to-air broadcasters show all of the events from the games.

He added: ‘It is disappointing to see so little.’ According to a report in 2012, which has not been corrected or denied, the BBC signed a £60million deal to show Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 as well as the Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 winter games. By comparison the 2016 deal it did with Discovery was said to have been for £110million for two Games – 2022 and 2024 – as well as giving up the rights to show all events in 2018 and 2020.

One well-placed industry insider said last night: ‘The BBC was desperate to keep hold of the Olympics, so the deal they did with Discovery was quite high, but they didn’t want to lose it.’ Asked if the deal was a bad one for the BBC, they added: ‘This was a good deal for Discovery.’

It is understood there was a ‘very tough’ set of negotiations with Discovery. The US company is said to have made it clear it was prepared to take the rights elsewhere, with Channel 4 and ITV both keen. A source said: ‘People expect the Olympics to be on the BBC. Nobody expected Discovery to come in and scoop it all up… they were ruthless at negotiating.’

Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, said last night: ‘It looks like the BBC got a very poor deal for both licence-fee payers and viewers. Clearly Discovery were laughing all the way to the bank.’ A BBC spokesman said: ‘With over 500 hours of live coverage, alongside 24-hour catch up and extensive radio and digital rights, we have secured an extensive offer for audiences.’ 

Olympics fans were left furious after the broadcaster tweeted Chelsie Giles had won a bronze medal in judo before their delayed coverage had finished on BBC One.

Similarly, the semi-final win that guaranteed Bradly Sinden a silver medal in Taekwondo on Sunday was delayed for BBC One viewers by 15 minutes. 

The BBC had again tweeted the result before their television coverage had ended. 

Britons were left frustrated by the spoilers, with one saying they ‘didn’t need to bother watching to the end’.

Olympics fans were left furious after the broadcaster tweeted Chelsie Giles (in white against Fabienne Kocher of Switzerland in the bronze medal judo match) had won a bronze medal in judo before their delayed coverage had finished on BBC One

Similarly, the semi-final win that guaranteed Bradly Sinden a silver medal in Taekwondo on Sunday was delayed for BBC One viewers by 15 minutes

It comes just a day after Mark Davies, the Chair of British Rowing, questioned the lack of his sport’s coverage on the BBC, saying he spent 25 minutes ‘looking on every coloured button and web page’. 

But Dan Walker, who fronted some of the live coverage that led to complaints, shared a post on Twitter that the broadcaster is showing less live sport than previously due to American TV network Discovery paying £920million for the long-term rights.  

The bronze medal match between Giles and Switzerland’s Fabienne Kocher in the women’s -52kg judo had been shown live on the red button instead of on BBC One which had delayed coverage. 

It meant many British fans were left frustrated after the BBC revealed Giles had won the bronze on Twitter before the coverage had ended.

 

British fans were left frustrated after the BBC revealed Giles had won the bronze on Twitter before the coverage had ended

‘Fantastic that the result came up on my watch before the match had finished, and so I didn’t need to bother watching to the end,’ tweeted Mark Smith. ‘What’s the point if you’re not showing medal hopes of GB athletes live?’ 

‘All results I’ve learned today have come from Twitter rather than watching BBC live? This match has literally just started and I already know the result,’ tweeted a frustrated Rob McEwen.  

‘Why is there such a delay in the broadcast versus your updates? Ps CONGRATS Chelsie.’ 

Mike Hall tweeted: ‘Thanks for spoiling that given its on your main channel NOW… ffs.’

Others pointed out that the match was instead live on the EuroSport channel. 

Rhys Lewis said: ‘It was on live on Eurosport but for some reason bbc decide to show it delayed on bbc1?!’

Meanwhile, viewers were left baffled after the BBC tweeted the result of the semi-final win that guaranteed Bradly Sinden a silver medal in Taekwondo.     

‘How on earth did BBC Sport not broadcast Bradly Sinden’s fight live?’ tweeted one user. 

Journalist Harry Wallop tweeted: ‘I love BBC; I think usually has far better coverage/commentators than rivals. But it’s not covered itself in glory at Tokyo 2020 so far. 

The Bradley Sinden match – Team GB’s first medal – was shown c15mins after Eurosport. In the era of social media non-live is rubbish.’

He added:  ‘Losing rights to lots of live Olympics is mostly out of BBC’s hands. But the producers have control over when to switch to which sport. Social media is full of “oh, what a Team GB result!” and the BBC hasn’t even started showing the match. That seems sub-optimal.’ 

More fans were frustrated at the BBC’s television coverage that can only show two events at once on Saturday.       

Britons attempting to watch the badminton and artistic men’s gymnastics lamented that it was a ‘shame’ they couldn’t watch some of the broadcasts. 

The corporation faced further backlash from angry fans after the heat of swimming favourite Adam Peaty was not shown on the main channel either.

But Dan Walker, who fronted the live coverage that led to complaints, took to Twitter to set the record straight and address viewers’ concerns.

He shared a post explaining that the broadcaster is showing less live sport than previously due to American TV network Discovery paying £920million for the long-term rights. 

Britons attempting to watch the badminton and artistic men’s gymnastics lamented that it was a ‘shame’ they couldn’t watch some of the broadcasts

Mark Davies, the Chair of British Rowing, questioned the lack of his sport’s coverage, saying he spent 25 minutes ‘looking on every coloured button and web page’

The Chair of British Rowing Mark Davies, tweeted: ‘Am I being really thick that I can’t find rowing anywhere since the BBC moved to this road cycling? I’ve spend the last 25 minutes looking on every coloured button & web page. 

‘214km of road cycling to go and the women’s IV- is done & the men are off shortly!’

Rachel Hooper, British Rowing’s learning, education and development manager, responded: ‘Nope. 

‘We’re all stumped why a 6 hour race is being prioritised over a 6 minute one!’

British four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent said the BBC ‘can only show two things at one time’.

He added: ‘Discovery have the full UK rights but I doubt are showing rowing.’ 

Many viewers decided to switch over to Eurosport or Discovery+ to watch coverage of their favourite sports.

One person tweeted: ‘Such a shame though – luckily have got free Discovery+ for 12 months and have Eurosport!’

Furious Olympics fans have slammed the BBC’s television coverage that can only show two events at once, sidelining British athletes’ big moments

Another posted: ‘What are the BBC doing with this Olympic coverage? 

‘I’ve just watched Peaty’s heat on Eurosport and now the BBC are showing the highlights of it one hour later.’ 

Team GB’s gold medal swimmers Tom Dean and Matt Richards can’t stop smirking as BBC host Clare Balding innocently tells them ‘your third leg was just PHENOMENAL’

Clare Balding made headlines at the Tokyo Olympics for an unintentional gaffe when interviewing Team GB’s gold medal winners Tom Dean and Matt Richards.

The BBC presenter was speaking to the swimming duo after their success in the men’s 4x200m freestyle final on Wednesday.

And Balding almost had the pair in stitches after innocently telling Richards ‘your third leg was just phenomenal’. 

Dean and Richards held back their laughter but could not stop smirking after the hilarious faux pas. 

Richards chuckled following the use of the slang word for male genitalia, before replying: ‘Yeah I mean I haven’t actually had a chance to watch it back yet. I’ve tried to find it. To be honest I’m having some trouble finding the video of the race.’

The clip from the BBC’s Olympics highlights show surfaced on social media with one user writing: ‘RFL President @clarebalding with an unintentional highlight of the Olympics, whilst interviewing 18-year-old gold medal winning swimmer Matt Richards.’

Clare Balding (left) made headlines at the Tokyo Olympics for an unintentional gaffe

BBC host Balding innocently told Matt Richards (R) ‘your third leg was just phenomenal’

Twitter users replied with multiple crying face emojis following the accidental innuendo

Balding’s accidental innuendo saw her trending on Twitter and several users replied with multiple crying face emojis, while one wrote: ‘Their smirks are hilarious.’

Another replied to the video, saying: ‘Wish I could hear the laughs afterwards, the teasing and jokes…’

While one Twitter user quipped: ‘I’d like to see his third leg!!!’

Dean, 21, became the first British man since 1908 to win two swimming golds at the same Olympics.

Dean and Duncan Scott, who also won individual silver, were joined by James Guy and Richards, 18, in relay gold on Wednesday.

The quartet finished a mammoth 3.23sec ahead of the Russian Olympic Committee, with Australia in third.

It was Great Britain’s third swimming gold of these glorious Games, their best tally since 1908. 

Richards would not have been part of the team had the Games gone ahead as planned last year.

Individual 200m freestyle gold and silver winners Tom Dean (second right) and Duncan Scott (second left) won 4x200m freestyle final alongside James Guy (R) and Matthew Richards (L)

Dean, Guy (right) and Richards (centre) celebrate the moment of glory at the Tokyo Olympics

He only made his senior international debut at the European Championships in May and Wednesday’s event was just the second time Richards had been part of the 4x200m relay team.

Richards took over after Dean and Guy and produced a fantastic performance to increase Britain’s lead from 0.13sec, when he dived in, to 1.45sec by the time he passed over to Scott.

‘Forever now, this will be something that I can say I was part of and it will be something I can tell my kids and hopefully my grandkids about one day,’ Richards said.

‘Going in after the current Olympic champion and a former world champion, and knowing the guy going in behind me won a silver medal in that event yesterday, the confidence that gives you is just incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud to have been part of a team.

‘I’ve got some big goals, I’ve got a lot of things that I want to achieve in my swimming career and as far as I’m concerned this is just the very beginning.’

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